Kelburn Garden Party 2016

Festival season has been in full flow for me since April and there’s certainly been some fine musical moments along the way: Radiohead at Secret Solstice; Anoushka Shankar at Glastonbury; and Ibibio Sound Machine at Big Love to name a few, however it wasn’t until Kelburn Garden Party this weekend just gone, that I really felt like I’d discovered some new music. Not only is it one of the most stunning sites I’ve seen, with an incredibly warm atmosphere (despite the cold), but the music programming is excellent and as it’s in Scotland I got to see many local bands who don’t seem to play south of the border that often. Here’s some of my musical highlights from the weekend, I’ll put them in the order of my seeing them rather than preference.

I’ve seen Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5 on a few Scottish line ups but this was the first time I’ve caught them, live. They appear to have something of a cult following up there which has obviously been built over a few years. There were a number of yellow t shirts & hoodies with Dijon 5 on the back peppered around the crowd and a number of noticeable unicorns (the only reference I could find to unicorns was in the song ‘Gay Icon’ but one of the band had a spectacular pair of unicorn leggings on, as well as other shiny unicorn based accessories). It was certainly a colourful crowd and they were a fun, colourful and refreshingly silly band who played a brass fueled cross between disco and 90s dance mostly.

Although we’ve only played one Scottish festival previously as Big Swing Sound (Knockengorroch, one of last year’s festival highlights), we were lucky to have a large and very up for it crowd for our set on Friday night, helped in no small part by the previous band who have the rather unfortunate name of Spliff Richards & the Snapping Turtles. They’re apparently made up from a number of Bombskare members (actually I have to shout out Bombskare, one of the UK’s finest ska bands, for being named as Britain’s best part-time band on a BBC programme recently – they’ll be playing the ChinaTown Courtyard at BoomTown this year) and play covers in a tearing and tight funk fashion with just a touch of metal. A lot of fun and they certainly pulled in a great crowd that thankfully stuck around for us afterwards.

Kelburn’s Pyramid stage may not be quite so epic as Glastonbury’s (made essentially from half a tepee) but I certainly enjoyed more music on there. My highlight though was Be Charlotte, a young trio centered around singer Charlotte Brimner. Although I’m no great supporter of Indie Pop generally, there was an unpretentious honesty about them that was refreshing and let’s face it, everything and everyone can be improved with a warm Scottish accent, plus all respects due, although still fairly raw and unpolished, voice, songs and music were all undeniably great.

Next up were a band I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. I think they’re one of the most under-rated acts I know and they certainly lived up to expectations. Starting with the Butterfly Song, an anthem for anyone looking to realise their full potential, and including all of my favourite songs alongside some fine whistling and kazoo playing, the wandering trio from Dublin, Newcastle and the Basque country shone in every style from old time Americana to Alt-Folk. If you’ve not seen them live, then make sure you catch them at BoomTown this year. They shall be performing on the Floating Lotus stage.

After many adventures around the site, such as the Prince rave deep in the woods and the boat party on top of a hill (where I caught a wicked up and coming dub dj / producer called Calculus) plus some more of the local cuisine that included vegan haggis samosas with Buckfast onions, we ended up back in the main body of the festival for Stanley Odd. I’ve posted about them before on my Scots, Knocks and Hip-hop post but it was great to catch them again, especially as they had a whole bunch of new material.

Although the temptation to gain a good spot for Haitus Kaiyote was great, we took the advice of festival programmer and co-organiser Chris Astrojazz and went to see New Zealand electro-future-soul group Sorceress, who turned out to be the perfect warm up for their antipodean cousins. I’m surprised I’ve not come across them before as they are the perfect fit for our old Chrome Kids show and apparently played both Hell stage at Glastonbury, the Jazz Café in London and Attic Bar in Bristol whilst they were here.

I probably don’t need to introduce Haitus Kaiyote to most of you, however I will say that they were one of the highlights of the year so far. It’s so refreshing to see such an experimental band do so well, if you haven’t yet seen them live, I advise you to catch them while you can.

Fat-Suit were described to me as Scotland’s Snarky Puppy. Although they are yet to clamber over the boldness of that description, they are indeed a fairly fantastic jazz band and certainly headed in from a similar direction to SP. Either way, they provide a perfect Sunday starter and the more than modest crowd are totally won over.
Of course what Snarky Puppy don’t have, not being from Scotland, is a little fiddle and folk like these guys. Although there’s only one token folk tune in the set, the band can obviously play both genres remarkably well.

I’m a big fan of old skool Americana vibes and Cera Impala & the New Prohibition play that very well. The trio are all fine musicians and Cera has a stunning voice with a beautiful stateside drawl.

It’s finally time to leave one of the best festivals I’ve attended in a long time. I’m fairly zenned out from a massage, despite being electrocuted and pummelled with a vibrator in the course of it (not like that – these were both bespoke massage machines) so the mellow and melancholy music of respected husband & wife duo Macmaster / Hay provided the perfect finale to the weekend. In fact when Mary Macmaster (also from The Poozies) translated one of the songs from Gaelic, it was about saying goodbye to one of your favourite places in the whole wide world. I couldn’t think of anything more apt.

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